New cameras, lenses, and accessories open up the possibility of fresh adventures in photography. In reality, though, most of us have to make do with what we’ve got, upgrading to new camera kit as and when we can afford it. With that in mind, here are 15 suggestions to help beginning and intermediate photographers improve your photography without splashing out on new gear.
With the creative flexibility that photo editing tools like Adobe Photoshop offer, many rely on post-processing to improve their photos. However, if you are not keen on getting all techie and learning the ropes of photo editing tools, you can still come up with nice photos. As photographers and artists, we all hit creative walls. We work hard to improve our skills; we learn new things and then it seems we hit a wall. Sometimes I think we over complicate problems like this, searching for some magical trick that will give us the creative perspective we are looking for. If you are like me you know that usually doesn’t work. Instead, here is a collection of tips you can go out and try today to improve your photography and develop your creative eye. Pay no attention to the order, they are all completely random.
1. Find a setting and stick with it
If there is a setting on your camera you are unfamiliar with, go to your camera and dial over to that setting. Now, commit to yourself that you won’t take your camera off that setting until you are fully comfortable with it. If you are only comfortable with automatic, I wouldn’t suggest going straight to manual but do certainly get out of the automatic settings and into the creative ones. You should view the automatic settings on your cameras as poison to your creativity and photographic skill. These settings take away your say in how the image will look, just short of composing the frame and pressing the shutter.
Most photographers don’t realize how much they can learn by simply reading the manuals that came with their cameras. I’ve been known to even read my manual on plane rides. What better time than when you have nothing else to do? Once you get one setting down, move to the next one, and work your way up to the infamous “Manual” setting.
2. Always Be a Beginner
The moment you adopt the mindset that you’re the best at something (or even the best in your circle) is the moment you become unteachable. I’ve met my share of people who think they know it all. You know the kind. You try and tell them something that you’ve learned and they shoot you down, saying they already knew that. Or they refuse to accept anything new because they aren’t willing to change their ways. This is a death sentence to your creativity. Set aside your pride and be willing to learn from others, even if you feel you’re at the top of your game.
3. Use a Tripod
According to a recent poll here at DPS around 70% of readers use a tripod less than 50% of the time. Personally, I know very few photographers who carry a tripod around with them – you almost never see it with amateurs. Something interesting happens when you attach your camera to a tripod. Suddenly, everything slows down. There are no more snapping photos left and right – quickly filling up memory cards. When you use a tripod, you really have to take the time to compose your image. This mainly happens because you can no longer move the camera around freely. You now have to adjust the tripod to be level with the horizon. You have to move it left or right manually to adjust the position of your subject. Just by doing this, you slow down and really think about your image.
4. Take Your Camera Everywhere
In his book Visual Poetry, Chris Orwig states that even without taking pictures, carrying a camera enhances life. I couldn’t agree more. Carrying a camera is an instant way to put your senses on high alert. It causes you to look at the world as if your camera was always pressed to your eye. It gives you a reason to slow down, to take everything in, no matter where you are.
Commit to carrying your camera with you everywhere for a certain amount of time. Take pictures knowing full well that the world may never see them. Create photographs of everyday things, moments in time that normally wouldn’t require a photograph. The trick will be to see these subtle events in a new way and to find a way to make them interesting. Even if you just use your camera phone, this tip is a solid way.